Turkey is among the countries with geographical location is located in the world's most prominent earthquake belt. This fact is painfully reminiscent of itself, with occasional violent jolts. People who are caught in the middle of a traumatic and life-threatening earthquake may experience temporary or permanent psychological disturbances. The most common ailments are acute and post-traumatic stress disorder. These ailments, which manifest themselves with problems such as nightmares, alienation, avoidance of places and places reminding earthquakes, can become permanent if not treated. Uz. From Memorial Ankara Hospital, Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Serkan Akkoyunlu gave information about the trauma and psychological disorders that developed after the earthquake and their treatments.
Fear causes thinking and focusing problems
In the event of an earthquake, it is experienced as a moment of fear and terror by nature, and this occupies the whole self and it is not possible to focus on something else. A person exposed to an earthquake wants to get away from the threat as soon as possible and behaves like that. Among the reactions given at the moment of fear, the feeling of unreality, alienation and unresponsiveness, that is, the situations called "freezing", may develop. Afterwards, some people may have difficulty remembering exactly the moment of the earthquake and what happened after the earthquake, and the person's thoughts about the world and himself may be shaken after the earthquake. Beliefs such as "I'm safe, nothing will happen to me" can be replaced by negative beliefs such as "I can't control anything bad things will happen". After a disaster that can disrupt the perception of security, the person may start to blame himself or feel angry with others by referring to dysfunctional reasons. However, trauma can cause even all beliefs to be shaken.
Some psychiatric disorders may occur after an earthquake.
Earthquake is a traumatic, natural phenomenon that may damage the physical integrity of the person. Like other traumatic natural disasters, earthquakes can be associated with many psychiatric disorders. The main ones are acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, panic attacks, panic disorder, other anxiety disorders, depression and problematic grief reactions can also be experienced.
Psychiatric disorders that occur after disasters such as earthquakes show themselves mostly with unwanted memories, dreams, feeling like reliving the event, recalling the event with physiological stimulation, avoiding places and places reminding earthquakes, or experiencing distress in such places. These symptoms may also be accompanied by feelings of alienation or unreality from the environment, rapid startle, difficulty in controlling anger, sleep disturbance and introversion. In addition, while losses in large-scale traumas such as earthquakes may cause problems related to the grief process to be intertwined with these symptoms, the presence of a physical head trauma can make these symptoms more complicated.
Earthquake trauma can be reflected in children's play
Although the symptoms in children exposed to earthquakes are similar to the distress experienced by adults, children can sometimes reenact the event in their games. However, situations such as restlessness, nightmare that they cannot explain the content, waking up in panic at night may occur.
Psychological problems are more common in women and children
While studies show that the prevalence of psychiatric problems after disasters can be around 20%; It shows that women, younger people and those with previous psychiatric disorders are more affected by this condition. In addition, not only those who experienced the earthquake, but also those who lost their relatives somehow and those who were exposed to the earthquake behind may experience psychiatric problems.
Getting expert help should not be avoided
It is beneficial for people who experience psychiatric problems such as acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder after natural disasters such as earthquakes to apply to a specialist psychiatry at the appropriate time. Accordingly, traumatized people should do the following to relieve themselves:
- After the earthquake, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic process, it is important where the person lives and how he will continue to protect himself. For this reason, people must first secure themselves.
- After providing a safe environment, it is important for the person to maintain their social life, to re-establish their routines and to get support from their environment. Participating in funerals, performing religious rituals, talking and sharing with others when needed, especially during the mourning process, are beneficial.
- Symptoms that arise after trauma, which are generally not very severe, may improve spontaneously after a while. However, if the person is having difficulty coping with these symptoms, they can seek professional help.
- Professional assistance takes the form of crisis intervention in terms of solving the person's problems. Various psychotherapies and medication treatments can be applied in connection with post-traumatic symptoms. Confronting situations, sensations or places that are associated with fear and distress within psychotherapy, or working on distressing memories can benefit individuals.
- With the therapy, it can be provided to examine the person's blaming, dysfunctional thoughts related to the trauma, to develop different perspectives and to create a new meaning about this process.
- It is necessary to make children feel safe, to give enough reassurance, to meet this need if they need to tell or play. It should not be neglected to seek professional help when children cannot cope with their distress.
- Those who have suffered naturally experience a mourning process. The fact that this loss is an unexpected, sudden, traumatic loss can further exacerbate this grief process. In such cases, it should be known that grief is a normal reaction, and many different emotions such as sadness, anger, and relief can coexist. Pain decreases as they share. Sharing pain, participating in social religious rituals, in a sense, makes it easier to experience the pain of mourning.
- People with a loss need to realize death, experience their pain, and rebuild their daily order without the person they lost. However, if the grief is very challenging and prevents the person from continuing his life, if the pain is very vivid despite the long time passed, and the person thinks of harming himself, this process may have become problematic. In such cases, professional help should not be avoided.
- In addition to psychotherapy, effective drug therapies are available for a psychiatric disorder such as depression, acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders that occur after trauma and grief.